High Attainment in the 2013 Secondary and 16-18 Performance Tables

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This post reviews high attainment and high attaining student data in the 2013 Secondary and 16-18 Performance Tables relating

Data Overload courtesy of opensourceway

to GCSE and A level respectively. It compares key outcomes with those reported in last year’s tables.

It also draws extensively on two accompanying statistical publications:

and derives three year trends, from these and the comparable 2011 and 2012 publications, focused primarily on variations by sector and school admission arrangements.

This post complements a briefer analysis of High Attainment in the 2013 Primary School Performance Tables published on 12 December 2013 and updates last year’s High Attaining Students in the 2012 Secondary School Performance Tables (January 2013).

This year’s secondary/post-16 analysis is presented in a somewhat different format, organised into sections relating to key measures, beginning with GCSE and moving on to A level.

A few preliminaries:

There are sometimes discrepancies between the figures given in the Tables and those in the supporting statistical publications that I cannot explain.

The commentary highlights results – some extraordinarily good, others correspondingly poor – from specific institutions identified in the Tables. This adds some richness and colour to what might otherwise have been a rather dry post.

But there may of course be extenuating circumstances to justify particularly poor results which are not allowed for in the Tables. Equally, strong results may not always be solely attributable to the quality of education provided in the institution that secures them.

As always, I apologise in advance for any transcription errors and urge you to report them through the comments facility provided.

Those who prefer not to read the full post will find a headline summary immediately below. The main text provides additional detail but is intended primarily for reference purposes.

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Headlines

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Media Coverage

There has been relatively little media coverage of what the Performance Tables reveal about the achievement of high attainers, though one article appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

It said that the high attainer population comprised some 175,800 students of which:

  • about 9,300 ‘failed to gain five good GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths’;
  • around 48% per cent (over 84,200) did not pass the EBacc and 35% [approaching 62,000] did not enter all the necessary subjects;
  • in English almost 14% [24,000] ‘effectively went backwards in English by gaining lower scores at GCSE level than comparable tests taken at 11, while 12% [21,000] did so in maths’.

The figures in square brackets are my own, derived from the percentages provided in the article.

The final point suggests that sizeable minorities of high attainers achieved the equivalent of Level 4 in English and maths GCSEs, but this is incorrect.

These figures relate to the proportion of high attainers who did not make at least three levels of progress from KS2 to KS4 in English and maths (see below) – quite a different matter.

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Headlines from this analysis

The following extended bullet points summarise the key findings from my own analysis:

  • The high attainer population constitutes almost exactly one third of the population of mainstream state-funded schools. A gender gap that had almost closed in 2012 has widened again in favour of girls. There are significant variations between school types – for example just over 20% of students attending sponsored academies are high attainers compared with just under 40% in academy converters. The population in free schools, UTCs and studio schools has fallen by 11.5% since 2012, presumably as a consequence of the sector’s rapid expansion. Only 90% of the selective school cohort constitutes high attainers, which suggests 10% of their intake are middle attainers who perform well on ability-based 11+ assessments. The selective school high attainer population has fallen by 1.4% since 2011. Ten selective schools record that their cohort consists entirely of high attainers, but some selective schools register a cohort in which two-thirds or fewer students are high attainers. This is comfortably lower than some non-selective schools, raising awkward questions about the nature of selective education. Although there are no schools with no high attainers, two schools recorded 3% and 99 have fewer than 10% (down from 110 in 2012). Academies in coastal towns are well-represented. The schools containing these small high attaining groups demonstrate huge variations in high attainer performance. This warrants further investigation.
  • 60.6% of all students in state-funded schools achieved 5 or more GCSEs at grades A*-C (or equivalent) including GCSEs in English and maths, a 1.8% improvement compared with 2012. But the success rate for high attainers improved by only 0.7% to 94.7%. This is better than the 0.2% fall in the success rate amongst low attainers but falls well short of the 2. 3% improvement for middle attainers. One in every twenty high attainers continues to miss this essential benchmark. But 50 more schools recorded 100% returns than in 2012 – and 19 fewer schools were at 75% or below. Apart from selective schools falling foul of the ineligibility of some IGCSEs, Ark King’s Academy in Birmingham was the lowest performer at 33%. Trends vary considerably according to school type. Free schools, UTCs and studio schools have improved by 4.2% since 2012, which must be partly a consequence of the growth of that sector. Meanwhile high attainers in selective schools have fallen back by 2.0% (and selective schools overall by 2.3%) since 2011. It is unlikely that idiosyncratic IGCSE choices are solely responsible. The profiles of sponsored and converter academies are still markedly different, though the gap between their high attainers’ performance has halved since 2011, from 5.3 percentage points to 2.7 percentage points.
  • There were big increases in the percentage of all students entered for all EBacc subjects in state-funded schools – up 12.4% to 35.5% – and the percentage successful – up 6.6% to 22.8%. The comparable entry and success rates for high attainers were 65.0% and 52.1% respectively. The entry rate for 2012 was 46.3%, so that has improved by almost 19 percentage points, a much faster rate of improvement than the headline figure. The success rate has improved from 38.5% last year, so by 13.6 percentage points, more than double the improvement in the headline figure. The EBacc is clearly catching on for high attainers following a relatively slow start. That said, one could make a case that the high attainer success rate in particular remains rather disappointing, since something like one in five high attainers entered for the EBacc fail to convert entry into achievement. Forty-seven schools entered all of their high attainers but only four recorded 100% success, two selective (Chelmsford County High for Girls and Queen Elizabeth’s Barnet) and two comprehensive (St Ursula’s Convent School in Greenwich and The Urswick School in Hackney). Only 55 schools entered no high attainers for the EBacc, compared with 186 in 2012. Seventy-nine schools recorded 0% of high attainers achieving the EBacc, also down significantly, from 235 in 2012. Seven of these were grammar schools, presumably all falling foul of IGCSE restrictions.
  • 70.4% of all students in state-funded schools made at least the expected three levels of progress in English and 70.7% did so in maths. These constitute improvements of 2.4% and 2.0% respectively. High attainers registered 86.2% success in English and 87.8% in maths. Their rates of improvement were broadly comparable with the headline figures, though slightly stronger in English. It remains disturbing that one in seven high attainers fail to make the expected progress in English and 1 in 8 fail to do so in maths. More schools achieved 100% success amongst their high attainers on each measure than in 2012 – 108 in English and 120 in maths. Forty-four schools were at or below 50% on this measure in English, some IGCSE-favouring grammar schools amongst them. Apart from those, the worst performer was Gloucester Academy at 28%. In maths 31 schools were at or below this 50% benchmark and the worst performer was Stafford Sports College at 29%. Six schools managed 50% or below in both English and maths, several of them academies. Amongst those at 50% or below in English, 11 had better rates of performance for both their middle and their low attainers than for their high attainers. Amongst those at 50% or below in maths, only one school achieved this feat – St Peter’s Catholic College of Maths and Computing (!) in Redcar and Cleveland. It is a cause for concern that high attainers in English attending selective schools continue to fall back on this measure and that one in five high attainers in sponsored academies, free schools, UTCs and studios is failing to make three levels of progress in English, while the same is true of maths in sponsored academies.
  • 7.5% of students in state-funded schools and colleges achieved grades of AAB or higher at A level with all three in facilitating subjects, an improvement of 0.1% compared with 2012. But the comparable percentage for students who achieved these grades with at least two in facilitating subjects shot up to 12.1%, an improvement of 4.3% on 2012. There are big variations between sectors, with the percentage achieving the former measure ranging from 3.5% (FE colleges) to 10.4% (converter academies. The figure for selective schools is 21.1%. Turning to the latter measure, percentages vary from 5.4% in mainstream sponsored academies to 16.4% in mainstream converter academies, while selective schools stand at 32.4%. Across all sectors, more students achieve grades AAA or higher in any A level subjects than achieve AAB or higher in three facilitating subjects. The proportion of students achieving AAA or higher in any A levels is falling in most sectors and institutional types, except in free schools, UTCs and studios and in FE colleges. The proportion achieving AAB or higher in any subjects is falling except in sponsored academies and FE colleges. Conversely there are improvements for AAB or higher with all three in facilitating subjects in LA-maintained mainstream schools, sponsored academies, sixth form colleges and FE colleges (and also across all comprehensive schools).  Across all state-funded mainstream schools, the percentage of A level A* grades has fallen back by 0.5% since 2011 while the percentage of A*/A grades has declined by 0.1%.

The full commentary below names 22 schools which perform particularly badly on one or more GCSE high attainer measures (leaving aside selective schools that have adopted ineligible GCSEs).

Of those 22, only nine are below the floor targets and, of those nine, only four are not already academies. Hence the floor targets regime leaves the vast majority of these schools untouched.

The only hope is that these schools will be caught by Ofsted’s renewed emphasis on the attainment and progress of the ‘most able’ learners (though that provision could do with further clarification as this previous post explained).

 

Definitions

The analysis of GCSE performance is focused primarily on high attainers, while the A level analysis is confined to high attainment.

This is a consequence of the way the two sets of performance tables are constructed (such distinctions were brought out more fully in this October 2013 post.)

There is no coverage of A*/A performance at GCSE within the Secondary Tables so we must necessarily rely on performance against standard measures, such as 5+ GCSEs at A*-C including English and maths and the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

The Government response to the consultation on secondary accountability reform suggests that this will remain the case, with material about achievement of top GCSE grades confined to the supporting Data Portal. It remains to be seen whether this arrangement will give high attainment the prominence it needs and deserves.

The current definition of high attainers is based on prior performance at the end of KS2. Most learners will have taken these KS2 tests five years previously, in 2008:

  • High attainers are those who achieved above Level 4 in KS2 tests – ie their average point score (APS) in English, maths and science tests was 30 or higher.
  • Middle attainers are those who achieved at the expected Level 4 in KS2 tests – ie their APS in these tests was between 24 and 29.99 – and
  • Low attainers are those who achieved below Level 4 in KS2 tests – ie their APS in these tests was under 24.

Since high attainers are determined on the basis of APS across three subjects, the definition will include all-rounders who achieve good (if not outstanding) results across all three tests, as well as some with a relatively spiky achievement profile who compensate for middling performance in one area through very high attainment in another.

Conversely, learners who are exceptionally strong in one subject but relatively poor in the other two are unlikely to pass the APS 30 threshold.

Both the Secondary Tables and the associated statistical publications remain bereft of data about the performance of high attainers from disadvantaged backgrounds and how that compares with the performance of their more advantaged high attaining peers.

This is unfortunate, since schools that are bucking the trend in this respect – achieving a negligible ‘excellence gap’ between their high attainers from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds – richly deserve to be celebrated and emulated.

At A level a variety of high attainment measures are reported in the statistical publications, but the Performance Tables focus on the achievement of AAB+ grades in the so-called ‘facilitating subjects’.

The Statement of Intent for last year’s Tables confirmed the intention to introduce:

‘Percentages of students achieving three A levels at grades AAB or higher in facilitating subjects, reflecting the subjects and grades most commonly required by Russell Group and other top universities.’

These subjects are listed as ‘biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geography, history, English literature, modern and classical languages.’

Such measures have been widely criticised for their narrowness, the Russell Group itself asserting that:

‘It would be wrong to use this simple indicator as a measure of the number of pupils in a school who are qualified to apply successfully to a Russell Group university.’

Nevertheless, they support one of the Government’s preferred Social Mobility Indicators which compares the percentage of students attending state and independent schools who achieve this measure. (In 2012 the gap was 15.1%, a full percentage point smaller than in 2011.)

There is nothing in the 16-18 Tables about high attainers, although the consultation document on 16-19 accountability reform includes a commitment to:

‘Consider how we can report the results of low, middle and high attainers similarly [to KS4] in the expanded 16-19 performance tables’.

At the time of writing, the response to this consultation has not been published.

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GCSE Achievement

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The High Attainer Population

Before examining the performance data it is important to review the size of the high attaining population and how this varies between genders, sectors and types of school.

Tables 1A, B and C below show that the population has remained relatively stable since 2011. It accounts consistently for almost exactly one third of students in state-funded mainstream schools.

The gender gap amongst high attainers has changed slightly since 2011. The percentage of high attaining girls has fallen back, slightly but consistently, while the percentage of high attaining boys increased in 2012, only to fall back again in 2013.

A gender gap that had almost been eliminated in 2012 has now widened again to a full percentage point. The percentages of high attaining learners of both genders are the lowest they have been over the three year period.

There are significant variations according to sector and school type, since the high attainer population in converter academies is almost double that in sponsored academies, where it constitutes barely a fifth of the student body. This is a strikingly similar proportion to that found in modern schools.

The percentage of high attainers in comprehensive schools is only very slightly lower than the overall figure.

At the other end of the spectrum, the high attaining cohort constitutes around 90% of the selective school population, which begs interesting questions about the nature of the other 10% and possible discrepancies between KS2 results and ability-focused 11+ assessment.

It cannot be the case that the majority of the missing 10% attended independent preparatory schools and did not take KS2 tests, since those without test results are excluded from the calculations.

The underlying trend is downward in all types of school. There has been a huge 11.5% fall in the proportion of high attainers in free schools, UTCs and studio schools. This is presumably consequent upon the expansion of that sector and brings it much more into line with the figures for all maintained mainstream and other comprehensive schools.

Otherwise the most substantial reduction has been in converter academies. The percentage in selective schools has fallen by 1.4% since 2011, twice the rate of decline in comprehensive schools.

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Table 1A: Percentage of high attainers by sector 2011, 2012 and 2013

All maintained mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools
2013 32.8 30.6 20.5 39.3 31.4
2012 33.6 32.0 20.9 42.5 42.9
2011 33.5 20.6 47.5

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Table 1B: Percentage of high attainers by admissions practice 2011, 2012 and 2013

Selective Comprehensive Modern
2013 88.9 30.9 20.5
2012 89.8 31.7 20.9
2011 90.3 31.6 20.4

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Table 1C: Percentage of high attainers by gender, all state-funded mainstream schools 2011, 2012, 2013

  Boys Girls
2013 32.3 33.3
2012 33.4 33.8
2011 32.6 34.4

 

The 2013 Performance Tables list 10 schools where 100% of pupils are deemed high attainers, all of which are selective. Thirteen selective schools were in this position in 2012.

But there is also a fairly wide spread amongst selective schools, with some recording as few as 70% high attainers, broadly comparable with some prominent non-selective schools.

For example, Dame Alice Owen’s School and The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC School – both comprehensive – have high attainer populations of 79% and 77% respectively, while Fort Pitt Grammar School in Chatham, Kent and Skegness Grammar School are at 65% and 66% respectively.

This raises intriguing questions about the nature of selective education and the dividing line between selective and non-selective schools

At the other extreme there are no schools recording zero high attainers, but 99 record 10% or fewer, several of them prominent academies. This is an improvement on 2012 when 110 schools fell into this category.

The two schools with the fewest high attainers (3%) are Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio (which opened in 2013) and St Aldhelm’s Academy in Poole.

Academies based in coastal towns are well represented amongst the 99.

It is interesting to speculate whether very small high attainer cohorts generally perform better than slightly larger cohorts that perhaps constitute a ‘critical mass’.

Certainly there are huge variations in performance on the key measures amongst those schools with few high attainers (where results have not been suppressed). This is particularly true of EBacc entry and success rates.

For example, amongst the 50 schools with the fewest high attainers:

  • the EBacc success rate varies from 73% at Aston Manor Academy to zero, returned by 12 of the 50.
  • The percentage of high attaining pupils making the expected progress in English varies from 50% to 100% while the corresponding range in maths is from 47% to 100%.

Many of these figures are derived from very small cohorts (all are between 1 and 20), but the point stands nevertheless.

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The Performance of High Attainers

As noted above, there are no true high attainment measures relating to the achievement of GCSE A*/A grades within the Secondary Tables, so this section is necessarily reliant on the universal measures they contain.

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5+ GCSEs at Grades A*-C including English and maths

The 2013 Secondary Performance Tables reveal that:

  • 53.6% of students at state-funded schools achieved 5+ GCSEs at Grades A*-C including English and maths, up 1.7% from 51.9% in 2012.
  • But the Tables pay more attention to the percentage achieving 5+ GCSEs at Grades A*-C (or equivalent) including GCSEs in English and maths: 60.6% of students attending state-funded schools achieved that measure in 2013, compared, up 1.8% from 58.8% in 2012.
  • 94.7% of high attainers in state-funded schools secured this outcome, up an improvement on 94.0% in 2012. The comparable figures for middle attainers and low attainers (with 2012 figures in brackets) are 57.4% (55.1%) and 6.9% (7.1%) respectively. Hence the overall increase of 1.8% masks a slight fall amongst low attainers and a significantly smaller increase amongst high attainers. Although there has been improvement, one in every 20 high attainers continues to fall short.
  • But it is notable that around 530 schools achieved 100% amongst their high attainers on this measure, compared with some 480 in 2012. Moreover, only 14 schools are at or below 67%, compared with 19 in 2012, and 47 are at or below 75% compared with 66 in 2012. This is positive news and suggests that the inclusion of the distinction within the Tables is beginning to bear fruit.

 Tables 2A and 2B, below show there has been an increase of 3.5% on this measure since 2011 across all pupils in state-funded mainstream schools. Meanwhile the proportion of high attainers securing this outcome has fallen by 0.4% (after rising slightly in 2012).

It may well be harder for schools to eradicate the last vestiges of underachievement at the top end than to strengthen performance amongst middle attainers, where there is significantly more scope for improvement. But some may also be concentrating disproportionately on those middle attainers.

This overall picture masks very different trends in different types of school.

In sponsored academies an overall improvement of 4.8% coincides with a slight 0.1% fall amongst high attainers, who have recovered following a substantial dip in 2012.

But in converter academies the overall success rate has fallen by almost 9% since 2011, while the rate for high attainers has fallen by only 2.7%.

And in free schools, UTCs and studios a slight overall fall since 2012 (there are no figures for 2011) is accompanied by an improvement for high attainers of over 4%.

Comprehensive schools have improved by 2.6% overall since 2011, yet their high attainers have fallen back by 0.3%. In selective schools the overall rate has fallen back by 2.3% while the high attainer rate has dropped by a similar 2.0%. This is concerning.

It is not straightforward to work out what is happening here, though the changing size of different sectors must be having a significant impact. 2012 GCSE results in English will certainly have influenced the dip in last year’s figures.

High attainers in free schools, UTCs and studios still have some ground to make up on other sectors and it will be interesting to see whether their improving trend will continue in 2014

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Table 2A: Percentage achieving 5+ A*-C grades (or equivalent) including English and maths by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools
All HA All HA All HA All HA All HA
2013 61.7 94.7 59.2 94.1 51.2 93.0 68.2 95.7 54.6 91.7
2012 59.8 94.0 58.2 93.5 49.3 91.5 68.4 95.5 55.7 87.5
2011 58.2 95.1 N/A N/A 46.8 93.1 77.1 98.4 N/A N/A

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Table 2B: Percentage achieving 5+ A*-C grades (or equivalent) including English and maths by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
All HA All HA All HA
2013 96.4 97.3 60.4 94.5 55.3 92.5
2012 97.4 98.2 58.5 93.5 53.1 92.2
2011 98.7 99.3 57.8 94.8 50.8 91.8

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A*-C grades in GCSE English and maths

According to the 2013 Secondary Tables:

  • 61.3% of all students in state-funded schools achieved GCSE grades A*-C in English and maths, compared with 59.5% in 2012, an improvement of 1.8%.
  • However, 95.1% of high attainers in state-funded schools achieved this measure compared with 94.3% in 2012, an increase of only 0.8%. The comparable figures for middle and low attainers (with 2012 figures in brackets) were 58.5% (55.8%) and 7.1% (7.3%) respectively. The pattern is therefore similar to the 5A*-C measure, with limited improvement at the top, significant improvement in the middle and a slight decline at the bottom.
  • Some 610 state-funded schools had 100% of their high attainers achieve this outcome, a significant improvement on the 530 recorded in 2012. There were 12 schools where the percentage was 67% or lower, compared with 18 in 2012, and 38 where the percentage was 75% or lower, compared with almost 60 in 2012.
  • These latter figures include Pate’s, King Edward VI Camp Hill and Bishop Wordsworth’s, all presumably tripped up again by their choice of IGCSE. Other poor performers were Gloucester Academy (again) at 44% and St Antony’s Catholic College in Trafford (59%). The worst performers were relatively stronger than their predecessors from 2012.

The trend data derived from the associated statistical publications shows that the overall figure for high attainers in state-funded schools has increased by 0.9% compared with 2012, recovering most of the 1.2% dip that year compared with 2011.

Sponsored academies have improved significantly with their high attainers back to 93.5% (their 2011 percentage) following a 1.7% dip in 2012. On the other hand, high attainers in converter academies have made little improvement compared with 2012, while free schools, studio schools and UTCs have improved by 3.9%.

Once again these patterns are probably influenced strongly by change in the size of some sectors and the impact of 2012 GCSE English results.

Interestingly though, selective school high attainers – having managed 99.5% on this measure in 2011 – are continuing to fall back, recording 98.3% in 2012 and now 97.5%. This may have something to do with the increasing attraction of IGCSE.

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Entry to and achievement of the EBacc

The 2013 Secondary Tables show that:

  • 35.5% of all students at state-funded schools were entered for all English Baccalaureate subjects, compared with 23.1% in 2012, and 22.8% achieved all EBacc subjects, up 6.6% from 16.2% in 2012.
  • Both entry (65.0%) and success (52.1%) rates continue to be much higher for high attainers than for middle attainers (27.8% entered and 11.8% successful) and low attainers (3.4% entered and 0.5% successful)
  • In 2012, the entry rate for high attainers was 46.3%, so there has been a substantial improvement of almost 19%. The 2012 success rate was 38.5%, so that has improved by 13.6%.
  • One could reasonably argue that a 52.1% success rate is lower than might be expected and relatively disappointing given that almost two-thirds of high attainers now enter all EBacc subjects. But, compared with the two previous measures, schools are much further away from the 100% ceiling with the EBacc, so further significant improvement amongst high attainers is likely over the next few years. However, the forthcoming shift to ‘Progress 8’ measure is likely to impact significantly.
  • 55 schools entered no high attainers for the EBacc, down considerably from 186 in 2012. Zero high attainers achieved the EBacc at 79 schools compared with 235 in 2012. Several grammar schools were of this number.

Tables 3A and B below indicate that, despite rapid improvement since 2012, only a third of high attainers in sponsored academies achieve the EBacc, compared with almost 6 in 10 attending converter academies.

The success rate for high attainers at free schools, UTCs and studios is only slightly higher than that for sponsored academies and both are improving at a similar rate.

Amost exactly half of high attainers at comprehensive schools are successful, as are almost exactly three quarters of high attainers at selective schools, but the rate of improvement is much faster in comprehensive schools – and indeed in modern schools too.

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Table 3A: Percentages achieving the EBacc by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools
All HA All HA All HA All HA All HA
2013 23.2 52.1 20.9 49.1 11.0 34.7 30.1 58.1 16.1 35.6
2012 16.4 38.5 14.5 35.0 6.3 21.1 25.7 49.1 12.2 23.6
2011 15.6 37.2 5.2 17.7 31.5 55.4

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Table 3B: Percentages achieving the EBacc by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
All HA All HA All HA
2013 71.6 74.6 21.5 49.9 12.1 33.3
2012 68.2 70.7 14.5 35.0 7.2 20.7
2011 68.1 70.5 13.7 33.6 6.7 20.3

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Three Levels of Progress in English and maths

The Tables inform us that:

  • 70.4% of all pupils in state-funded secondary schools made at least three levels of progress in English (up 2.4% from 68% in 2012) and 70.7% did so in maths (up 2.0% from 68.7% in 2012).
  • In both subjects more high attainers made the requisite progress than middle and low attainers: 86.2% in English (2.8% up on 2012) and 87.8% in maths (up 2.0%). Despite these improvements, it remains the case that approximately one in seven high attainers fail to make the expected progress in English and one in eight fail to do so in maths. This is extremely disappointing.
  • There were 108 schools in which every high attainer made the requisite progress in English, up from 93 in 2012. In maths, 120 schools ensured every high attainer made the expected progress, compared with 100 in 2012. A total of 36 schools managed this feat in both English and maths, whereas only 26 did so in 2012.
  • At the three grammar schools we have already encountered, no high attainers made the expected progress in English. Forty-four schools were at or below 50% on this measure, down markedly from 75 in 2012. The worst performer apart from the grammar schools was Gloucester Academy at 28%.
  • Thirty-one schools had 50% or fewer high attainers making the expected progress in maths, an improvement on the 46 registering this result last year. The poorest performer was Stafford Sports College at 29%.

Tables 4A and B below contain the trend data for the achievement of three levels of progress in English while Tables 5A and B cover maths.

The figures within these tables are not strictly comparable, since the statistics unaccountably define high attainment slightly differently for the two populations. In the case of the ‘all’ column, they use achievement of Level 5 in the relevant KS2 test (ie English or maths), rather than above Level 4 achievement across all three core subjects, while the definition for the ‘high attainers’ column is the customary one set out above.

Nevertheless, one can see that, overall, the percentage of high attainers meeting this benchmark in English is recovering following a significant fall last year. Free schools, UTCs and studios have just overtaken sponsored academies while converter academies are 3.5 percentage points ahead of LA maintained mainstream schools.

In maths converter academies have an even more substantial 4.5 percentage point lead over LA maintained mainstream schools. Sponsored academies are a full 10 percentage points behind converters and five percentage points behind free schools, UTCs and studios, but the latter category is recording a downward trend while everyone else is moving in the opposite direction.

The fact that one in five high attainers in sponsored academies, free schools, UTCs and studios is failing to make three levels of progress in English is serious cause for concern.  Worse still, the same is true of maths in sponsored academies. This state of affairs requires urgent attention.

It is noticeable that the general recovery in performance amongst high attainers in English does not extend to selective schools, which have fallen back still further since 2012 and are now a full 3.5 percentage points behind their 2011 level. Regardless of causality – and early entry policy as well as the increasing popularity of IGCSE may be involved – this too is a matter for concern. The situation is more positive in maths however.

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Table 4A: Percentages achieving three levels of progress in English by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools
All HA All HA All HA All HA All HA
2013 79.7 86.2 85.0 80.7 88.5 81.0
2012 76.9 83.4 82.5 76.0 86.7 68.1
2011 69.0 87.2 79.6 94.5

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Table 4B: Percentages achieving three levels of progress in English by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
All HA All HA All HA
2013 93.0 85.5 81.0
2012 93.4 82.3 77.1
2011 96.5 86.2 81.1

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Table 5A: Percentages achieving three levels of progress in maths by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools
All HA All HA All HA All HA All HA
2013 81.7 87.8 86.2 80.8 90.7 85.6
2012 79.7 85.8 84.4 77.8 90.2 87.5
2011 76.8 85.2 75.6 93.2

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Table 5B: Percentages achieving three levels of progress in maths by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
All HA All HA All HA
2013 96.6 86.9 84.4
2012 95.9 84.7 80.5
2011 96.6 83.9 79.3

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Other measures

The Performance Tables show:

  • The average point score (APS) per pupil for the best eight subjects (GCSE only) across all state-funded schools was 280.1, up from 276.7 in 2012. Amongst high attainers this rose to 377.6, up from 375.4 in 2012. Only five schools – all selective – achieved an APS above 450 for their high attainers (eight schools managed this in 2012). The top performer was Colyton Grammar School in Devon. At the other extreme, four schools were at 200 or lower (much reduced from 16 in 2012). These were Hadden Park High School in Nottingham (160.1), Pent Valley Technology College in Kent (188.5), Aylesford School in Kent (195.7) and Bolton St Catherine’s Academy (198.2).
  • According to the value added (best 8) measure, the best results for high attainers were achieved by four schools that scored over 1050 (seven schools managed this in 2012). These were Tauheedul Islam Girls High School, Harris Girls’ Academy, East Dulwich, Sheffield Park Academy and Lordswood Girls’ School and Sixth Form Centre. Conversely there were three schools where the score was 900 or below. The lowest VA scores were recorded by Ark Kings Academy; Hadden Park High School; and Manchester Creative and Media Academy for Boys.
  • The Tables also provide an average grade per GCSE per high attainer (uncapped) but, at the time of writing, the relevant column in the Tables refuses to sort in ascending/descending order. This press article draws on another measure – average grade per pupil per qualification (capped at best 8) to identify Colyton Grammar School as the only state-funded school to achieve an average A* on this measure. It is highly likely that Colyton Grammar will top the rankings for the uncapped high attainer measure too. The article adds that a total of 195 schools (state and independent presumably) achieved an average of either A*, A*-, A+, A or A- on the capped measure, noting that the Hull Studio School posted G- (though with only seven pupils) while two further schools were at E+ and a further 82 schools averaged D grades.
  •  The average number of GCSE entries for high attainers in state-funded schools was 9.9, up slightly from 9.7 in 2012. The highest level of GCSE entries per high attainer was 15.5 at Colyton Grammar School, repeating its 2012 achievement in this respect. At three schools – Hadden Park, Aylesford and Bolton St Catherine’s – high attainers were entered for fewer than five GCSEs (15 schools were in this category last year). One school – Ormesby in Middlesbrough – entered its high attainers for 22 qualifications, which seems a little excessive.

 

A Level Achievement

.

Percentage achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+ in facilitating subjects

According to the 16-18 Performance Tables:

  • 7.5% of A level students in all state funded schools and colleges achieved three A levels, all in facilitating subjects, at AAB or higher, up slightly from 7.4% in 2012. This is another column in the Tables that – at the time of writing – will not sort results into ascending/descending order. In 2012 a handful of state-funded institutions achieved 60% on this measure and that is likely to have been repeated. There were also 574 schools and colleges that recorded zero in 2012 and there may have been a slight improvement on that this year.
  • The same problem arises with the parallel measure showing the percentage of students achieve AAB+ with at least two in facilitating subjects. We know that 12.1% of A level students in state funded schools and colleges achieved this, up very significantly from 7.8% in 2012, but there is no information about the performance of individual schools. In 2012 a handful of institutions achieved over 80% on this measure, with Queen Elizabeth’s Barnet topping the state schools at 88%. At the other extreme, there were about 440 schools and colleges which recorded zero in 2012.

Tables 6A and B below show that the success rate on the first of these measures is creeping up in LA-maintained mainstream schools, sponsored academies, sixth form colleges and FE colleges. The same is true of comprehensive schools.

On the other hand, the success rate is falling somewhat in converter academies, free schools, UTCs and studios – and also in selective and modern schools.

It is noticeable how badly sponsored academies fare on this measure, achieving exactly half the rate of LA-maintained mainstream schools.

.

Table 6A: Percentages of students achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+ in facilitating subjects by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools Sixth form colleges FE
2013 8.7 7.4 3.7 10.4 5.1 6.0 3.5
2012 8.6 7.2 3.4 11.4 7.5 5.8 3.3
2011

.

Table 6B: Percentages of students achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+ in facilitating subjects in schools by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
2013 21.1 6.8 1.0
2012 21.5 6.6 1.6
2011

.

The 2013 statistics also contain breakdowns for the ‘AAB+ with two in facilitating subjects’ measure, as shown in Table 6C below.

.

Table 6C: Percentages of students achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+ with two in facilitating subjects by sector and admissions practice, 2013 only.

State-funded mainstream schools 13.6
LA-funded mainstream schools 11.4
Sponsored academies (mainstream) 5.4
Converter academies (mainstream) 16.4
Mainstream free schools, UTCs and studios 11.3
Sixth Form Colleges 10.4
FE Colleges 5.8
Selective schools 32.4
Comprehensive schools 10.7
Modern schools 2.0

.

While sponsored academies are achieving unspectacular results – in that they are even further behind LA-funded schools and even below FE colleges on this measure – selective schools are managing to get almost one third of their students to this level.

.

Percentage achieving 3+ A levels at A*/A

The Performance Tables do not include this measure, but it is included in the statistical reports. Tables 7A and B below show the trends – downwards in all sectors and types of school except FE colleges and free schools, UTCs and studios.

It is unclear why their performance should be improving on this measure but declining on the AAB+ in three facilitating subjects measure, though it seems likely that some UTCs and studios are less likely to enter their students for facilitating subjects.

.

Table 7A: Percentages of all students achieving 3+ A levels at A*/A by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools Sixth form colleges FE
2013 10.7 8.7 4.1 13.1 7.9 9.3 5.1
2012 10.9 9.1 4.2 14.8 6.0 9.7 5.0
2011 11.4 10.2 4.9

.

Table 7B: Percentages of students achieving 3+ A levels at A*/A in schools by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
2013 27.0 8.1 1.7
2012 27.7 8.3 1.9
2011 27.7 8.4 2.3

.

Percentage achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+

Once again, this measure is not in the Tables but is in the statistical bulletin. Tables 8A and B below compare trends. The broad trend is again downwards although this is being bucked (just) by FE colleges and (more significantly) by sponsored academies. So while sponsored academies are getting slightly falling results at AAA+, their results are improving at AAB.

 .

Table 8A: Percentages of students achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+ by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools Sixth form colleges FE
2013 17.9 15.1 7.9 21.4 13.0 16.4 9.5
2012 17.9 15.4 7.5 23.4 16.4 16.8 9.4
2011

.

Table 8B: Percentages of students achieving 3+ A levels at AAB+ in schools by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
2013 40.0 14.5 4.4
2012 40.6 14.5 4.7
2011 40.9 14.8 5.4

It is interesting to compare 2013 performance across these different high attainment measures and Table 9 below does this, enabling one to see more clearly the differentiated response to facilitating subjects amongst high attainers.

In most parts of the schools sector, the success rate for AAB+ in any subjects is roughly twice that of AAB+ in facilitating subjects, but this is not true of FE and sixth form colleges, nor of free schools, UTCs and studios.

At the same time, every sector and school type shows a higher rate at AAA+ than at AAB+ in three facilitating subjects.

.

Table 9: Percentages of students by sector/school type achieving different A level high attainment measures in 2013

AAB+ in 3FS AAB+ 2in FS AAB+ AAA+
All state-funded mainstream 8.7 13.6 17.9 10.7
LA-funded mainstream 7.4 11.4 15.1 8.7
Sponsored academies 3.7 5.4 7.9 4.1
Converter academies 10.4 16.3 21.4 13.1
Free schools UTCs and studios 5.1 11.3 13.0 7.9
Sixth form colleges 6.0 10.4 16.4 9.3
FE colleges 3.5 5.8 9.5 5.1
Selective schools 21.1 32.4 40.0 27.0
Comprehensive schools 6.8 10.7 14.5 8.1
Modern schools 1.0 2.0 4.4 1.7

.

Other Measures

Reverting back to the Performance Tables:

  • The APS per A level student across all state-funded institutions is 782.3, up significantly from 736.2 in 2012. The highest APS was recorded by Dartford Grammar School which recorded 1650.0. At the other end of the spectrum, an APS of 252.6 was recorded by Hartsdown Technology College in Kent.
  • The APS per A level entry across all state-funded institutions was 211.3 compared with 210.2 in 2012. The strongest performer in the maintained sector was Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, which achieved 271.4. The lowest score in the maintained sector is 97.7, at Appleton Academy in Bradford.
  • A new average point score per A level pupil expressed as a grade is dominated by independent schools, but the top state-funded performers – both achieving an average A grade – are Henrietta Barnet and Queen Elizabeth’s Barnet. A handful of schools record U on this measure: Appleton Academy, The Gateway Academy in Thurrock, Hartsdown Technology College and The Mirus Academy in Walsall.
  • A new A level value added measure has also been introduced for the first time. It shows Ripon Grammar School as the top performer scoring 0.61. The lowest score generated on this measure is -1.03 at Appleton Academy, which comes in comfortably below any of its competitors.
  • The Statistical Bulletin also tells us what percentage of A level entries were awarded A* and A grades. Tables 10 A and B below record this data and show the trend since 2011. It is evident that A* performance is falling back slightly in every context, with the sole exception of FE (a very slight improvement) and free schools, UTCs and studios. A*/A performance is generally holding up better, other than in converter academies.

 .

Table 10A: Percentage of A* and A*/A grades by sector

All state-funded mainstream LA maintained mainstream Sponsored academies Converter academies Free schools, UTCs and studio schools Sixth form colleges FE
A* A*/A A* A*/A A* A*/A A* A*/A A* A*/A A* A*/A A* A*/A
2013 6.8 24.4 5.9 21.4 3.7 15.1 7.9 27.5 4.7 20.0 5.7 21.6 3.9 15.4
2012 7.2 24.3 6.3 21.8 4.0 14.4 8.9 29.1 4.3 20.3 5.8 21.8 3.8 15.6
2011 7.3 24.5 6.3 22.4 3.9 16.0

.

Table 10B: Percentage of A* and A*/A grades in schools by admissions practice

Selective Comprehensive Modern
A* A*/A A* A*/A A* A*/A
2013 12.7 40.6 5.6 21.1 2.5 10.6
2012 13.4 41.2 5.9 20.9 2.6 11.1
2011 13.4 41.0 6.0 21.1 3.0 11.6

.

Conclusion

What are we to make of this analysis overall?

The good news is that high attainers have registered improvements since 2012 across all the most important GCSE measures:

  • 5+ GCSEs or equivalent including English and maths GCSEs (up 0.7%)
  • GCSEs in English and maths (up 0.8%)
  • 3 levels of progress in English (up 2.8%)
  • 3 levels of progress in maths (up 2.0%)
  •  EBacc entry (up 19%) and EBacc achievement (up 13.6%).

The last of these is particularly impressive.

At A level, the underlying trend for high attainment per se is slightly downward, but significantly upward for AAB+ grades with two in facilitating subjects.

The less good news is that some of these improvements have been made from a relatively low base, so the overall levels of performance still fall short of what is acceptable.

It is not cause for congratulation that one in seven high attainers still fail to make the expected progress in English, while one in eight still fail to do so in English. Nor is it encouraging that one in twenty high attainers still fail to secure five or more GCSEs (or equivalent) including GCSEs in English and maths.

The significant improvement with the EBacc masks the fact that one fifth of high attainers who enter exams in all the requisite subjects still fail to secure the necessary grades.

Moreover, some schools are demonstrating very limited capacity to secure high achievement and – in particular – sufficient progress from their high attainers.

The fact that several schools achieve better progression in English for both their middle and their low attainers is particularly scandalous and needs urgent attention.

As noted above, the floor targets regime is too blunt an instrument to address the shortcomings in the substantial majority of schools that have been highlighted in this study for poor performance on one or more high attainers measures.

The combined impact of the secondary accountability reforms planned for 2016 is as yet unclear. For the time being at least, Ofsted inspection is the only game in town.

The school inspection guidance now demands more attention to the performance and progress made by the ‘most able students’. But will inspection bring about with sufficient rapidity the requisite improvements amongst the poorest performers highlighted here?

I have it in mind to monitor progress in this small sample of twenty-two schools – and also to look back on what has happened to a parallel group of the poorest performers in 2012.

.

GP

January 2014

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2 thoughts on “High Attainment in the 2013 Secondary and 16-18 Performance Tables

  1. Close to 25% of candidates get A*/A grades at GCSE. It is probable that at least 10% could achieve this by the end of Y10. That means the brightest 10% of the cohort are marking time for a whole year yet there is a strong discouragement from early entry and almost zero provision to enable such children to start on Level 3 work in Y11. Virtually no-one that achieves an A*/A at GCSE will actually use those grades directly for employment, only as an indicator of readiness for higher level academic study. It is crazy to allow the exam system to hold back the brightest children. At TLM we have accredited qualifications (judged high quality by the DfE) that can be achieved at Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Now that NC ATs and levels are gone we encourage schools to work towards a level 1 qualification starting in Y7. Pupils should achieve this when they are ready and at whatever time that happens they can then start Level 2 even if it is the middle of a year. If they finish Level 2 with a high grade they can start a Level 3 Award which provides credit towards a Level 3 Certificate and a Level 3 Diploma. The level 3 Award is designed to enable it to fit into Year 11 and with flexibility for teachers to combine it with level 2 teaching of other children should numbers make separate grouping difficult to achieve. This means that even if a student opts to do other level 3 subjects eg A levels in Ma, Phy. chem at the start of Y12, they have a level 3 Award in say Computing they can add to their portfolio. If they decide to do the certificate or diploma they have already completed some coursework in the Award towards it leaving more time to learn higher order knowledge needed to gain the highest grades in the Certificate and Diploma exams.

  2. Hi Ian

    I think it’s fair to say that early entry is not discouraged in circumstances where the candidate is strongly expected to achieve A*/A? The problem arises when early entry candidates ‘bank’ grade Cs and are actively discouraged from retaking. And levels aren’t actually gone yet? As I understand it, they will continue to feature in Performance Tables in 2014 and 2015?

    Best wishes

    GP

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